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About Project Infrastructuralism

What is our mission?

The aim of this project is to make the numerous letters between the leading Danish structuralists accessible for theoretical and historical purposes. At the Royal Library in Copenhagen and in the archives of the University of Aarhus, a large amount of letters between the leading figures of this grouping has been preserved, first and foremost Louis Hjelmslev (1899-1965) and Hans Jørgen Uldall (1907-1957), the central theory builders of Glossematics, as they termed their special version of structural linguistics. Besides, the archives contain letters exchanged between the two leading figures and their most important discussion partners: Eli Fischer-Jørgensen (1911-2010), Paul Diderichsen (1905-1964) and Jens Holt (1904-1973).

Why are we doing it?

The discussion of structuralism as an approach to language description and analysis is still a vital one, not only within linguistics, but also within many other branches of humanistic science where the structural approach is an important tool for handling questions of meaning and interaction through language. Basically, the fundamental concept of structuralism is that meaning consists of those structures that are marked in the given context as mutually different (cp. Saussure). Whether these markings are founded in local structuring of meaning or in a structuring that is valid to a larger community, is not as important as the theoreticians of those days thought, having their main bias on standard languages. Indeed, this opening is a seminal point in the attempt to bring structuralism into the 21st century.

With this project, we want to stimulate the theoretical discussions of language, social interaction and meaning within the field of the humanities. The letters between Hjelmslev and the members of his intellectual circle are important in several respects: First, they contain explanations and expansions of the theory as was unfolded in the printed works. Secondly, we find possibilities and alternatives, maybe even lines of thinking that were discarded in the first place.

How are we going to do it?

We will make the letters accessible through the internet as picture files and will be readable as such. Since the letters were exchanged for many different reasons, we may find hard-core theoretical discussions juxtaposed with season’s greetings and academic nitty-gritty. Because of this, we will select the central parts of the theoretical discussion from the letters, transcribe and comment them, so that references in passing to persons and events etc. will be elucidated as fully as possible. Also, the development of the linguistic thinking will be made clear through references to the development of the terminology.

Why is it important?

The relevance of Project Infrastructuralism lies in the opportunity to rethink and revitalise the humanistic discipline of research by rethinking science through a new perspective. The contribution of this project will be portrayed in a digital infrastructure and creating a forum for discussing clearer and cleaner methods for some fundamental problem areas in Humanities. We seek depth and precision by inviting ourselves into the worlds of intelligent linguists and their correspondences to ensure scientific validity for humanistic research.

Hjelmslev had envisioned a structure of empirical ontology that was based on general structures of linguistic elements. By reading Hjelmslev’s academic reflections (published as well as unpublished) and by placing him in the discussions with the other members from his intellectual circle, we find empirical ontology as the foundation for language theoretical research. This foundation contributes to a reconstructed image of structuralism nationally. However, from an international point of view, Project Infrastructuralism has the opportunity to describe og portray structuralism in a digitally, visually and panoramically inspired manner. These portrayals allow us to dive in to structuralism and examine all relevant levels and different point of views across Denmark as well as other countries.